Jihan A. Mohammed
2014 / 5 / 16
The two major waves of Jewish migration from different parts of the world, including Israel, to the USA had occurred during the periods between mid-19th century to 1948 and between 1954 and 1995. After this second wave, Jewish migration continued to the USA. According to Cohen (1988) two reasons were behind the high rate of immigration from Israel in the 70s and 80s: Men between 25-35 were obligated to service in the military and also the high rate of unemployment. However, the treatment of Jewish immigrants by agencies like Hebrew Immigration Aid Society (HIAS) and American Jewish community (these agencies used to assist new arrivals and help their process of settlement in the USA) has been through many changes because of political, social, economic and cultural reasons. Since the 1970s “Russian speakers” and Israelis have compiled the largest groups among Jewish immigrants in the USA. Each sub-group brought the culture and the life style of their countries to the USA. The diversity of these sub-groups caused philanthropic agencies to address complicated issues in the process of helping these groups.
Prior to 1980s, there were restrictions on Israelis on travelling from Israel and other parts of the world to the USA. The Zionist movement in Israel stigmatized who immigrated “from the Promised Land into the diaspora” along with those emigrated from different parts of the world to the USA. Jewish immigrants were condemned and there were legal restrictions on their travelling to the USA by Israeli’s government. In addition, Jewish immigrants were not very welcomed by the American Jewish community. Both Israel’s government and the American Jewish community claimed these Jewish immigrants should go back to Israel´-or-stay in Israel and nowhere else.
The point that I don’t understand is the reasons behind the condemnation and stigmatization of immigrants. Was it a problem of population density that Israel had at the time´-or-there were other reasons, for example not willing to loose skillful people? And why American Jewish community adapted the same policy of Israel’s government? It seems that relations between the government and the American Jewish community were very strong at the time. Only recently they diverged and took two different attitudes towards Jewish immigration issue. Back to the question why Jewish immigrants were stigmatized and why there were restrictions on their travelling? It is interesting to write a whole paper about it. But to quickly satisfy my curiosity, I looked over this book, entitled (The end of the Jewish diaspora) by Caryn Aviv where the author discusses the relationship of Jews with the homeland. The notion of the homeland for Jews is complicated and it changed over time. Historically, the Jewish made their homelands wherever they lived in diaspora because there was no real homeland for Jews but in their imagination there was a “yearning return to Zion under the guidance of Messiah.” (p. 3). Zion is the place that the Jews were exiled from but they will return to it under the guidance of Messiah (Aviv 2005). However, the contemporary notion of homeland is different from the historical one, it has “an actual political entity, rather than only a symbolic one” (p. 5). It is worthy to spend more time and more pages finding out other reasons behind the stigmatization and restrictions on Israelis traveling prior to the 1980s.
Jewish immigrants from other countries like Russia also underwent a similar process of stigmatization by American Jewish community because the latter were refusing to consider Israel as their original land, they were more secular and they adopted the Russian culture, therefore they were not religious enough to be considered Jewish. It is confusing how the Jews identify themselves in countries like Russia´-or-Turkey? From Gold (2013) I understand that Russian Jews have a double identity, Russian and Jewish while, in Turkey, for example, and according to (Kaya 2004) Jewish people identify themselves as Turkish when they immigrate to the USA. Does that mean the process of integration and assimilation of the Jewish in Turkey were stronger and more successful than in Russia´-or-because Jewish in Turkey are a small group and the risk of assimilation were higher?
In late 1980s, some changes occurred in Israel’s policy as well as in the attitude of the American Jewish community towards Jewish immigrants. Both adapted a new policy. Instead of stigmatizing immigrants, the government started using a policy to attract Jews to go to Israel, by offering good opportunities and facilities for those ready to go there, meanwhile the American Jewish Community failed to subject “Russian speakers” to a religious doctrinarian and they became more aware of the multiculturalism of Jewish immigrants, so they attempted to incorporate them in a different way for example, by offering more secular and ethnic aid activities rather than religious ones. But it is interesting to see how religious agencies were conservative in settling new immigrants and subject them to a religious life style, especially in 1970s and 1980s. That’s why Jewish immigrants were challenged between their own liberal values and the “established expectations, institutions, and geographical boundaries” built by the American Jewish community.
Gold (2013) discusses that after 1970s, Jewish immigrants became desirable globally because they became more skillful. Better professional opportunities started being offered to them and consequently in 2000s, Israel got a brain drain because inside Israel, people became more critical and ready to leave Israel State because of “lack of opportunity, as well as violence and corruption.” (p.153). While, in the section (Economic Growth and Transformation), he discusses the improvement of the socio-political and economic situation of Israel’s State and how it “had become a center of high tech and was seen as among the world’s top growth economies” by 2000. If the socio-political and economic situation was improving then why people would blame and decide to leave Israel? It seems that correlation between immigration and the policy of Israel that became more tolerable and understanding toward immigration at the time, was positive and played a significant role to encourage people to leave the Promised Land.
However, Jewish immigrant’s settlement recently became not stable. They come to USA to study or-make business but after a period of time they go back to Israel to take advantages of the opportunities in there (Gold 2013). In addition to that, both “Russian speakers” Jews and Israeli’s became more critical. Israelis towards the Israel State and its conservative and rigid policy-;-Russian Speaking Jews towards the way of settlement, and choosing where and how to live in the USA. Consequently the relations between American Jewish community and the Israel State converged over the time. Young Israelis immigrants are now less supportive of the Israel State because they are more secular and believe in liberty of choosing, where to live and weather to adapt a Jewry life style or-not (Gold 2013). A short reflection could be--;-- Why America Jewish identify themselves as “American-Jewish” while the rest of Americans identify themselves as “American”. Is “Jewish” identity, in this context, a religious´-or-national identity?
However, new Jewish immigrants have better opportunities to engage in the new communities in the USA because they are more skillful than immigrants of decades ago, in terms of education, culture, language and occupation, and also because the socio-political patterns towards Jewish immigrants changed.
1. Gold, Steven. "Enhanced Agency for Recent Jewish Migrants" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, Hilton New York and Sheraton New York, New York, NY, Aug 10, 2013 . 2013-11-07.
1. Kaya, Ilhan. "Turkish-American Immigration History and Identity Formations." Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 24.2 (2004): 295-308. ProQuest. Web. 5 Nov. 2013.
2. Cohen, Yinon. "War and Social Integration: The Effects of the Israeli-Arab Conflict on Jewish Emigration from Israel."American Sociological Review 53.6 (1988): 908. ProQuest. Web. 5 Nov. 2013.
3. Aviv, Caryn, and David Shneer. New Jews: The end of the Jewish diaspora. NYU Press, 2005.